What is the cellphone doing to society in general?

Did you know that the iPhone that you are reading this message from has over 100,000 times the processing power of the computer used to put man on the moon, back in 1969. It’s just incredible technology when you consider everything your smartphone will do. I’m astonished considering that we hold in our hand more information than an entire encyclopedia set, can talk to others anywhere in the world, listen to music, and take amazing video’s…simultaneously! What an incredible piece of technology we possess. 

Like the Waltons, every Sunday our family gets together to have dinner. Its perhaps my wife’s favorite activity, preparing for and having dinner with our children, grandchildren, and my mother. I usually sit at the head of the table and listen, rarely saying anything unless asked. 

One Sunday during dinner there was a lull in the conversation as my wife and daughter went to get desert. I looked down the long table at where my family was sitting and was stunned to see there were six family members staring at their cellphones. This happens frequently. I usually ask if they are texting each other complaining about me. 

This has caused me to be more cynical of cell phone usage in general. I did some research about cell phone usage. Its reported that 27% of people with cell phones look at their phones while they are driving. Bull! That’s just those that admit it. I would bet that number is greater than 50% – you see it, or get stuck behind it, every day. 

When someone is texting and driving, they are distracted in three ways – VISUALLY by taking their eyes off the road, MANUALLY by taking at least one hand off the wheel, and COGNITIVELY by taking their mind off the driving.  

Think about that, the average SUV weighs 5,000 lbs. and is hurtling at you at 60 miles per hour, while the driver is probably looking at a phone. They might as well be blindfolded! It should be made illegal in every state for someone to have a cell phone within reaching distance while driving. 

A report by Car and Driver magazine stated the stopping distance for people texting while driving was greater than people who were driving while intoxicated. In fact, texting drivers are 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash that those driving while intoxicated.  While drunk, driving at 70 miles per hour, the stopping distance increased 4 feet. By contrast, reading an email added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet. 

This is very concerning to me given I have grandkids that are starting to drive, and I have seen firsthand their phone habits. If I was their dad I’d make a policy of putting cell phones in the trunk before starting the car. 

But over and beyond the obvious safety factors is what the cellphone is doing to society in general. 

Sherry Turkle, a sociologist and clinical psychologist at MIT laments, “Mobile technology means we’re always on, always plugged in, always stimulated, always in a constant state of self-presentation. Psychologically, that’s a game changer. For nearly all of human history, people were able to find silence and solitude pretty easily — that was just part of the human condition.”

Think about how often you see people, usually those generations younger than us baby-boomers, staring at their phone, completely devoid of the people or circumstances going on around them. Or how often you see people sitting at a stoplight, looking at their phone. On average, it takes a stoplight 75 seconds to change colors. That means these people can’t sit idly for 75 seconds! Here are a few other statistics:

The average person checks their phones 144 times per day. Me personally, maybe 6 times a day, so somebody, like my family members,  are really driving that number up. Bet yours are too.

It is said 75% of people use the phone on the commode! That is 3 out of 4 people, folks. I will never borrow a phone again.

I tried to find out how many people curtly look at texts on their watches while in conversation with others but was unable. I did find 60% of people sleep with their phone at night, 69% admit to texting someone in the same room, 57% consider themselves addicted to their phones, 46% have looked at their phone on a date, and so on.  Bet every number is under reported. And what are those small screens doing to everyone’s eyes?

The cell phone is perhaps one of man’s greatest inventions. But its consuming us, particularly our young. Parents, for the love of God, tear yourself from your phone long enough to monitor your kid’s cellphone usage.